Definition of belles-lettres in English:

belles-lettres

plural noun

  • also treated as singular Essays, particularly on literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect.

    ‘he inspired me with the desire to restore writing on art to nineteenth century belles-lettres’
    ‘elegant dabbling in belles-lettres’
    • ‘We review both belles-lettres and nonfiction.’
    • ‘Lowenstein notes that the exclusion of Jews from prestigious professions such as the higher bureaucracy, military, and judiciary stimulated cultural creativity in more open environments such as journalism and belles-lettres.’
    • ‘Books of literate and entertaining essays on occasional topics - what used to be called belles-lettres - are no longer common, and that is a shame.’
    • ‘'With an Essay on Style' and 'Essays from the Guardian' encapsulate his engagement with Victorian periodical journalism and belles-lettres.’
    • ‘This is downright impossible unless you reach for the treasury of belles-lettres, for its rich variety of expression.’
    learning, scholarship, erudition, education, knowledge, book learning, academic training
    View synonyms

Origin

Mid 17th century: from French, literally ‘fine letters’.

Pronunciation

belles-lettres

/bɛllɛtʀ//bɛlˈlɛtr(ə)/